The nuclear deal between India and the US has infused a new lease of life into the country’s sole nuclear power company, the Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL), which has so far managed to install 4,120 MW of capacity. Now, NPCIL has set its eyes on an ambitious target of 22,000 MW in the next five years. S K Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of NPCIL, talks about how the company is well equipped to grab the opportunity coming its way in a newspaper interview. Excerpts.
Today, NPCIL has 17 reactors under operation and five under construction, which will be commissioned to the grid next year. So then, we will have 22 reactors. This will have a total capacity of 4,400 mw based on heavy water.
The current five-year plan calls for eight reactors of 700 MW with our own technology and fuel. That will take the programme to 10,000 MW. This is the maximum that can be produced with the available resources of uranium in the country.
So, in the absence of a deal, we would have generated some 10,000 MW for the next 20 years. Plus another 2,000 MW by fast breeder reactors. The subsequent stages, wherein we will be using plutonium and thorium, is a long-term programme, which will take another three to four decades
Still this 10,000 MW would have been a problem, because of the difficulties in the country — environmental apprehensions over uranium mining kept mining projects from commencing, so mining could not keep pace with the nuclear power programme. As a result, the 17 reactors we have are operating at 50 percent capacity.
Even the eight units of 700 MW which will be taken up in the current five-year programme were actually supposed to be taken up in the last five-year programme. Therefore, the expansion of nuclear capacity has been deferred by four to five years just because of the constraints of mining.
How much fuel will you need to run the reactors at 100 percent capacity?
There are already six reactors under safeguards. Out of these six, only one is a heavy water reactor, for which we require fuel. Eight more reactors that are proposed under the 11th five-year plan will be brought under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. For these nine reactors (1 heavy water + 8 new reactors), we require 400 tonnes of natural fuel per year. And around 40 tonnes of enriched uranium for Tarapur I and II and 60 tonnes per year of enriched uranium for Kundakulam I and II.